ArcPy under ArcGIS Pro 2.3.2.

I am adding a Python datetime.datetime object to a shapefile attribute table using an arcpy insert cursor. The problem is that when I add the datetime instance, the date is preserved in the attribute table, but the time is set to 0:00.

Here is how I create the field:

arcpy.AddField_management(outfile_points, field_name='timestamp',

Here is how I add the data:

    with arcpy.da.InsertCursor(outfile_points, field_list) as cursor:
        for a_storm in history.all_storms.values():
            for a_rec in a_storm.record_dict.values():
                data_list = [None] * len(field_list)
                data_list[field_dict[designation]] = a_storm.designation
                data_list[field_dict[timestamp]] = a_rec.record_time <===
                #       Eliding irrelevant code

The line with <==== is where I assign the value. Note, the type of .record_time is datetime.datetime.

When I check the value of data_list in this module as it runs, the time of day is preserved in the list. But when I view the data from ArcGIS Pro, the time of day is reset to 0:00.

Can anyone recommend what I should do differently at the <=== line?

The whole module is at CreateHurricanePolylines.py

  • 1
    The time is not preserved, it is just truncated, and a midnight value generated at read time.
    – Vince
    Jun 5, 2019 at 23:56

1 Answer 1


This is a limitation of Shapefiles which cannot store both date and time in the same field.

The ESRI documentation at https://pro.arcgis.com/en/pro-app/help/data/tables/date-fields.htm says:

When calculating date fields, the field calculator uses Python datetime functions. Some of the functions support datetime yyyy-mm-dd hh:mm:ss AM or PM. However, for shapefiles, the time portion is truncated from the datetime value. For example, the datetime 2002-08-20 12:00:00 PM is stored in a shapefile as 2002-08-20.

So if you want to preserve the date and the time, you have a few options including:

  1. Use two separate fields, storing the time as a string in its own field

  2. Store the entire date and time as a single string in a text field instead of a date field

  3. Don't use Shapefiles

I would recommend using a file Geodatabase instead of a shapefile, if you have that option. Shapefiles are an old and very limited format. File geodatabases can be read and written by several other GIS packages these days.

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